11 Best Songs of the Week: Marika Hackman, Shura, Sleater-Kinney, Bat For Lashes, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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11 Best Songs of the Week: Marika Hackman, Shura, Sleater-Kinney, Bat For Lashes, and More

Plus Bruce Springsteen, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Purple Mountains, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Jun 14, 2019 Georgia Bookmark and Share

Welcome to another Songs of the Week. We couldn’t quite limit it to a Top 10 this week, there were enough strong new tracks to stretch it to a Top 11. There were several notable albums announced this week, which meant a lot of strong new singles to choose from.

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted our recent back cover story interview with boygenius, as well as a My Firsts interview with Euan Hinshelwood of Younghusband and a Self-Portrait feature with Pixx.

Then we also posted our recent print article about the late Scott Hutchison, the frontman of Frightened Rabbit who tragically took his own life last year. For the article we spoke in-depth to Grant Hutchison, Scott’s brother and Frightened Rabbit bandmate, about Scott’s long-term battle with depression and what he meant to his fans. We also spoke to James Graham of The Twilight Sad, Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai, and Frightened Rabbit’s former manager Storme Whitby-Grubb.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Bruce Springsteen, French Vanilla, Faye Webster, Drahla, Yeasayer, and Holy Herndon. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

Don’t forget about our current print issue. The issue features Mitski on the front cover and boygenius (Julien Baker + Phoebe Bridgers + Lucy Dacus) on the back cover.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 11 best the last seven days had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last week. Check out the full list below.

1. Marika Hackman: “the one”

British singer/songwriter Marika Hackman is releasing a new album, Any Human Friend, on August 9 via Sub Pop. This week shared another song from the album, “the one,” which was the first song written for Any Human Friend.

It also might be Hackman’s catchiest song to date. In a press release Hackman concurs, saying “the one” is “probably the poppiest song I’ve ever written. I loved the idea of inhabiting this ridiculous arrogant rock star character who has totally fucked their career by writing too many sad songs.”

Previously she shared the album’s first single “i’m not where you are” (which was one of our Songs of the Week), as well as a video for the song.

Any Human Friend is the follow-up to her 2017-released breakthrough release, sophomore album I’m Not Your Man. Hackman co-produced the album with David Wrench (Frank Ocean, The xx, Let’s Eat Grandma).

In a previous press release Hackman summed up the album this way: “This whole record is me diving into myself and peeling back the skin further and further, exposing myself in quite a big way. It can be quite sexual. It’s blunt, but not offensive. It’s mischievous.”

Hackman added: “I’m a hopeless romantic. I search for love and sexual experience, but also I’m terrified by it.”

Hackman is unabashed about tackling these themes, even if her only family is a little less enthused. “I sent ‘all night’ to my parents and they were quite shocked,” she said in the press release. “Why does it sound shocking coming out of my mouth? Women have sex with each other, and it seems to me we aren’t as freely allowed to discuss that as men are. But at no point am I disrespecting the women I’m having sex with. It can be fucking sexy without banging people over the head with a frying pan. It’s sexy sex.”

Read our 2017 interview with Marika Hackman.

2. Shura: “religion (u can lay your hands on me)”

This week Shura (aka Alexandra Lilah Denton) announced a new album, forevher, and shared a video for its new single, “religion (u can lay your hands on me).” Forevher is due out August 16 via Secretly Canadian. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as her upcoming tour dates, here.

The album is the follow-up to her 2016 debut, Nothing’s Real. Denton is British, but is based in New York. Denton co-produced the album with Joel Pott. It features Jona Ma (from Jagwar Ma), Will Miller (Whitney), and T-E-E-D, with additional vocals from Rosie Lowe, Kerry Leatham, and Reva from Nimmo. The album includes “BKLYNLDN,” a single shared back in March via a NSFW video.

In a press release Denton describes the album as “a soul record, sung by someone who doesn’t have a traditional soul voice. And I quite enjoy the antagonism of that.”

Thematically, the album is about Denton’s long-distance relationship with her girlfriend, or as a press release puts it: “It’s a classic NYC-to-London love-story, but one told through the totally modern filter of dating apps, unanswered texts, and Skype chats.”

Chloe Wallace directed the “religion (u can lay your hands on me)” video. The press release says the song is “a mediation on queer desire that explores the concept of sex being like a religion. The song was inspired by the burgeoning love affair, a time of constant texts and phone calls on different continents, where the phrase ‘you can lay your hands on me’ takes on a playful meaning.”

The album cover is inspired by Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss, but instead features two women. Denton had this to say about it in the press release: “I wanted to create something that people could look at, in the way that you look at The Kiss, and think: I recognize that. Or I want that, or I crave that, or I miss that. I wanted to make something that was specific to my experience of being a queer woman that anyone of any gender or sexuality could look at and think ‘yeah, I understand’ or ‘that’s beautiful.’ Because that’s all love is.”

3. Sleater-Kinney: “The Future Is Here”

This week Sleater-Kinney announced a new album, The Center Won’t Hold, and shared a lyric video for a new song from it, “The Future Is Here.” St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) produced The Center Won’t Hold, which is due out August 16 via Mom + Pop. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as their upcoming tour dates, here.

The Center Won’t Hold is the band’s tenth album and their first for Mom + Pop (previously they were on Sub Pop). It includes “Hurry On Home,” a new song they shared last month via a Miranda July-directed lyric video for the track (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Check it out below again.

Sleater-Kinney consists of Carrie Brownstein (guitar/vocals), Corin Tucker (guitar/vocals), and Janet Weiss (drums). They released a well-received comeback album, No Cities to Love, in 2015 via Sub Pop.

Brownstein had this to say about the album in a press release: “We’re always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos.”

Weiss had this to say: “I think for Carrie and Corin it was liberating to explore a different sound palette. Annie (St. Vincent) has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us.”

Tucker adds: “The Center Won’t Hold drops you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election. And almost like a mission statement, at the end of that song, it’s like the band is finding its way out of that space by becoming a rock band.”

4. Bat For Lashes: “Kids in the Dark”

This week Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) announced a new album, Lost Girls, and shared its first single, “Kids in the Dark.” Lost Girls is due out September 6 via AWAL Recordings. “Kids in the Dark” is not as immediate as some of Khan’s previous classic singles (such as “Daniel” or “What’s a Girl to Do”), but it’s still got some Bat For Lashes magic and Khan’s unmistakable voice.

Check out the album’s tracklist and over art here. In the last week, in the run up to the album announcement, Bat For Lashes also shared some intriguing teaser videos on Instagram and you can watch those here too.

Lost Girls is the follow-up to 2016’s concept album The Bride, which came out via Parlophone/Warner Bros. Although in 2018 Khan scored the BBC/Netflix show Requiem, for which she picked up an Ivor Norvello Award.

A press release sets the scene for Lost Girls this way: “If her last album, The Bride, was melancholy and mournful, a tone poem of loss and regret, Lost Girls is her mischievous younger sister, widescreen in scope and bursting with Technicolour intensity. It’s an album for driving in the dark; holding hands at sunset; jumping off bridges with vampires; riding your bike across the moon…. Spanning 10 tracks, Lost Girls sees Khan dreaming up her own fully formed parallel universe, creating an off-kilter coming of age film in which gangs of marauding female bikers roam our streets, teenagers make out on car hoods and a powerful female energy casts spells and leave clues for us to follow. The women of Lost Girls are parallel to one of Khan’s previous female protagonists, the tough, darkness-driven Pearl, from her 2009 lauded album Two Suns. Within the women of Lost Girls and the character Nikki Pink, Khan unfolds elements of herself; within these songs, we do the same.”

5. Bruce Springsteen: “Western Stars”

Bruce Springsteen released a new solo album, Western Stars, today via Columbia (stream it here). Today he also shared a video for its title track, “Western Stars.”

“Western Stars” is about an aging actor of Western movies. “Once I was shot by John Wayne/Yeah, it was towards the end/That one scene’s brought me a thousand drinks,” sings Springsteen in the song. Thom Zimny directed the video, which was filmed in Joshua Tree, California.

Plus today we posted an in-depth review of Western Stars written by longtime Springsteen fan (and longtime Under the Radar writer) Chris Tinkham and you can read that here.

Western Stars is Springsteen’s first studio album in five years, since 2014’s High Hopes. Previously he shared a lyric video for its first single, “Hello Sunshine.” The string-backed song features slide guitar and has a late ‘60s and early ‘70s country vibe à la Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell. It was our #1 Song of the Week. Then he shared another song from it, “There Goes My Miracle.” That was followed by “Tucson Train,” a string-backed workingman’s love song that was shared via a Thom Zimny-directed black & white video for the song (it was also one of our Songs of the Week).

The album features 13 original songs by Springsteen and was primarily recorded at his home in New Jersey, with additional recording in California and New York. A previous press release said that Springsteen’s 19th studio album draws “inspiration in part from the Southern California pop records of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s” and that the tracks “encompass a sweeping range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community and the permanence of home and hope.”

Springsteen produced the album alongside Ron Aniello, who also plays bass, keyboard, and other instruments. Patti Scialfa provides vocals and contributes vocal arrangements on four tracks. The musical arrangements include strings, horns, pedal steel and contributions from

The album also features more than 20 other players, such as Patti Scialfa (who does vocals and vocal arrangements on four tracks), Jon Brion (on celeste, Moog, and farfisa), David Sancious, Charlie Giordano, and Soozie Tyrell. Tom Elmhirst mixed the album.

Springsteen had this to say about the album in the previous press release: “This record is a return to my solo recordings featuring character driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements. It’s a jewel box of a record.”

6. Africa Express: “City in Lights” (Feat. Georgia, Nick Zinner, The Mahotella Queens, and Otim Alpha)

Multicultural collective Africa Express, which was spearheaded by Damon Albarn, are releasing a new album, EGOLI, on July 12 via Africa Express Records. This week they shared another song from it, “City in Lights.” The song features British singer Georgia, Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Mahotella Queens, and Otim Alpha.

Georgia had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘City in Lights’ is about Hilda Tloubatla - or Mama as we called her - and the journey she made from her township to the studio to join The Mahotella Queens in 1960s Johannesburg. She shared her incredible story with me and I was so inspired by her ambition, her love for music and her incredible bravery to leave her family at such a young age to follow her dreams. Whilst recording the music in my room-turned-studio, I had this amazing view of the city of Johannesburg and at night it was all lit up and glowing… And I thought of all the women who come to the city to follow their dreams and make a better life for themselves… It was truly life changing to meet Mama and I thank Africa Express for this.”

Otim Alpha added: “I was very happy to meet a great producer like Georgia and hear the beautiful voices of The Mahotella Queens as well as all the great music styles. I loved working with Georgia; making music with different musicians is amazing.”

Previously they shared the album’s first single, “Johannesburg,” which features vocals by Gruff Rhys (Welsh frontman of Super Furry Animals), alongside other featured artists Morena Leraba, Radio 123, and Sibot. It was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from the album, “Become the Tiger,” which features Sibot, Damon Albarn, and Mr Jukes.

A press release lays out the album’s many participants as such: “Featured artists include Damon Albarn, Blue May, Gruff Rhys, Georgia, Ghetts, Mr Jukes, Nick Zinner, Remi Kabaka, Otim Alpha and Poté as well as emerging and established stars of the buzzing South African music scene including BCUC, Blk Jks, Dominowe, Faka, Infamous Boiz, DJ Spoko, Mahotella Queens, Moonchild Sanelly, Muzi, Morena Leraba, Nonku Phiri, Radio 123, Sibot, Sho Madjozi, Zola 7, Zolani Mahola (Freshly Ground) and Maskandi guitar legend Phuzekhemisi.”

7. Black Belt Eagle Scout: “At the Party”

This week Black Belt Eagle Scout (aka Katherine Paul) announced a new album, At the Party With My Brown Friends, and shared its first single, album opener “At the Party.” At the Party With My Brown Friends is due out August 30 via Saddle Creek. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as her upcoming tour dates, here.

Paul is an indigenous queer musician who grew up in a small Indian reservation, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and is based in Portland. Her debut album, Mother of My Children, came out last September via Saddle Creek, so this is a quick turnaround for a sophomore album. Back in April she shared a video for a new song, “Loss & Relax,” that was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Alas that song is not on the new album.

A press release describes the new album as such: “At the Party With My Brown Friends is a profound and understated forward-step. The squalling guitar anthems that shaped its predecessor are replaced by delicate vocals and soft keys, sentiments spoken and unspoken, presenting something shadowy and unsettling; a stirring of the waters. Paul recalls specific memories - an impromptu beach trip with her friend Haley Heynderickx, her eternal love for her mother, and leaving one love and desperately wanting to find another. The end result presents a captivating about-face that redefines Paul’s singular artistic vision.”

“At the Party” was written in Paul’s bedroom and a press release says it “is a reflection on self-navigation and the comfort that comes from a close-knit group of friends.”

Paul had this to say about the single in the press release: “Within my conscious self, there is always a sense of questioning the legitimacy of the world when you grow up on an Indian reservation. We are all at the party (the world), trying to navigate ourselves within a good or bad situation. I happen to be at the party with my brown friends- Indigenous, Black, POC who always have my back while we walk throughout this event called life.”

Read our interview with Black Belt Eagle Scout on Mother of My Children.

Read our 2018 politically themed interview with Black Belt Eagle Scout.

Read our review of Mother of My Children.

8. The Family Daptone: “Hey Brother (Do Unto Others)” (Feat. Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, and More)

Daptone Records are releasing their 100th 45 single on June 28 and now the New York soul label has shared its A-side, “Hey Brother (Do Unto Others).” The song is credited to The Family Daptone and features the label’s two biggest icons, Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, both who have died in recent years (Jones in 2016 and Bradley in 2017, both due to cancer). The song also features Saun & Starr, The Frightnrs, James Hunter, Naomi Shelton, Duke Amayo, and Lee Fields, as well as members of The Dap-Kings and Menahan Street Band.

An original version of the song was written by The Frightnrs and appeared on their 2016 album Nothing More to Say. The band’s Dan Klein died of ALS just prior to the album’s release, so Daptone thought it would be a fitting track to re-record for their 100th 45 release. The track has now become a tribute to not just the label, but to also those musicians they have lost: Jones, Bradley, Klein, and Cliff Diver.

Label co-founder Gabriel Roth (aka Bosco Mann) had this to say about the song in a press release: “Everybody seemed to really love the idea of being together on a record like that… Every one of those singers that I asked, after I explained what we were trying to do, they really jumped through hoops to try to make it happen.”

The B-side to “Hey Brother (Do Unto Others)” is the instrumental track “Soul Fugue” by The 100 Knights Orchestra, which, as a press release points out, is a huge ensemble featuring “every horn player the label has ever worked with (really!) including current and past members of The Dap-Kings, Antibalas, The Budos Band, Menahan Street Band, The Extraordinaires, The Soul Providers, and The Daktaris.” It was shared digitally back in May.

9. Purple Mountains: “Darkness and Cold”

Purple Mountains is the new project of David Berman, who was previously the frontman (and sole constant member) of Silver Jews. Berman’s self-titled debut album under the Purple Mountains name is due out July 12 via Drag City. This week he shared another song from it, “Darkness and Cold,” via a video for the track. Ben Berman (who is not related to David) directed the video, which stars David and his wife Cassie Berman as she prepares to go out for the night without him, which is also the subject of the song. Check out Purple Mountains’ upcoming tour dates here.

Purple Mountains is Berman’s first album in 11 years, since 2008’s Silver Jews album Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea. Previously the first Purple Mountains single, “All Happiness is Gone,” was shared.

10. Hiss Golden Messenger: “I Need a Teacher”

This week Hiss Golden Messenger (the band led by M.C. Taylor) announced a new album, Terms of Surrender, and shared a video for its first single, “I Need a Teacher.” Terms of Surrender is due out September 20 via Merge. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as Hiss Golden Messenger’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Taylor produced Terms of Surrender with Brad Cook. It was recorded in upstate New York at the Long Pond studio belonging to Aaron Dessner of The National. Then there was additional recording at Sound City in Los Angeles, Haptown Studio in Nashville, and Overdub Lane in Durham, North Carolina. Dessner guests on the album, as does Jenny Lewis and Josh Kaufman. D.L. Anderson directed the “I Need a Teacher” video, which was filmed in May during the statewide North Carolina Association of Educators’ Day of Action demonstration.

One dollar from each ticket on the tour will benefit Durham Public Schools Foundation, “whose mission is to foster community support for public schools and invest in our students, educators and families to ensure success and equity for every student.”

Hiss Golden Messenger’s last album of new material was 2017’s Hallelujah Anyhow, on Merge. Although in March 2018 he shared a new song, “Passing Clouds,” to support Everytown for Gun Safety (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Last fall Hiss Golden Messenger released, via Merge, the new 4-LP boxset, Devotion: Songs About Rivers and Spirits and Children, which included remastered reissues of three previous albums (Bad Debt, Poor Moon, and Haw), as well as the rarities compilation Virgo Fool. Earlier this year he also shared two new songs: “Watching the Wires” and “Everybody Needs Somebody.”

11. Vagabon: “Flood Hands”

This week Vagabon (aka Lætitia Tamko) announced a new album, All the Women in Me, and shared its first single, “Flood Hands.” All the Women in Me is due out September 27 via Nonesuch. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as her upcoming tour dates (which are mainly in support of Angel Olsen), here.

All the Women in Me is Vagabon’s second album, the follow-up to her 2017-released debut Infinite Worlds, and is her first for Nonesuch. Tamko wrote and produced the entire album herself and plays all the instruments on “Flood Hands,” for example.

Of the single Tamko says in a press release: “‘Flood Hands’ is a track I originally produced and arranged for a well-known pop-duo to have on their album. Knowing I was writing this song for musicians I admire, allowed me this relief from my writer’s block. I used this assignment as a chance to flex my production muscles and write something I wouldn’t have written as a ‘Vagabon’ song a couple years ago. The result felt like a triumph for me in my progression as an artist and I just couldn’t stand to part with the song by the time I was finished.”

The press release Tamko sets the scene for where she was at prior to recording the new album: “I was in a pretty tortured headspace when I returned home from touring Infinite Worlds. That album contained some of the first songs I’d ever written, and more people than I could have ever imagined heard it. I was proud to become a full-time musician and recognized how rare of a thing that is, but was also debilitated by the very same fact. Fear overtook me and I couldn’t write. I felt stagnant and unsure of what to do next.”

Unlike Infinite Worlds, All the Women in Me has less of a straight up indie rock guitar sound, with more electronic textures. “With this album, I wanted to impress myself,” Tamko says in the press release. “I wanted to be curious and I wanted to make big leaps as a producer. All I had access to on the road was my computer and Logic, so naturally I started writing songs electronically with what was at hand.”

Tamko adds: “The drums and vocal forward approach I took on All The Women In Me is drawn from my love for rap and hip-hop production as well as R&B and folk storytelling. That’s the music that got me excited about writing again.”

Honorable Mentions:

These six songs almost made the Top 10.

Julien Baker: “Red Door” and “Conversation Piece”

Efterklang: “Vi er uendelig”

Kindness: “Hard to Believe” (Feat. Jazmine Sullivan)

Lilith: “C.O.Y.F.”

The Raconteurs: “Bored and Razed”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

The Bird and The Bee: “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” (Van Halen Cover)

Burial: “State Forest”

Car Seat Headrest: “Fill in the Blank (Live)”

Common: “HER Love” (Feat. Daniel Caesar & Dwele)

Flume: “Let You Know” (Feat. London Grammar)

Free Nationals: “Time” (Feat. Mac Miller & Kali Uchis)

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: “Sail On”

Horse Jumper of Love: “Nature”

The Juan Maclean: “Get Down (With My Love)”

Karen O & Danger Mouse: “Perfect Day” (Lou Reed Cover)

LIFE: “Hollow Thing”

Lykke Li: “Sex Money Feelings Die (Remix)” (Feat. Lil Baby & Snowsa)

Bob Mould: “I Don’t Mind” (Buzzcocks Cover)

Rose Dorn: “Shaking”

Joan Shelley: “Coming Down For You” (Feat. Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Nathan Salsburg, and James Elkington)

Sturgill Simpson: “The Dead Don’t Die”

Strange Ranger: “Living Free”

Taylor Swift: “You Need to Calm Down”

Maria Usbeck: “Amor Anciano”

UV-TV: “Hide”

WHY?: “Reason” (Feat. Lala Lala), “Deleterio Motilis,” and “Stained Glass Slipper”

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